For the second time in three years the Sugar Land Skeeters have done their victory dance in the back yard of the Long Island Ducks!
After winning the Atlantic League championship in 2016 with a three-game sweep of the Ducks, the Skeeters needed all five games of the championship series to do it again this year. The Skeeters, who won the first two games of the series at home, won Game 5 on Sunday 4-1. It also put the Ducks on a 0-3 skid in the last three championship series, with the York Revolution winning last year’s title over Long Island.
It’s been nothing short of amazing to watch how first-year manager Pete Incaviglia has spun the player turnstile all season long and produced a powerhouse winner. The team lost a record 13 players who had their contracts purchased by Major League teams and two more that went to Mexican leagues. That’s 15 players – mostly pitchers – who came and went, yet the wins kept coming all season. The Skeeters won the first and second halves of play while amassing an 81-45 record, the second best in franchise history.
Not only did the call-ups come, but Incaviglia stayed busy wheeling and dealing players. There are only 11 players on the roster to end the season that were playing for the team in April. Yet through all the changes the Skeeters kept rolling up W’s with incredible consistency.
It was hard to tell at the beginning of the season how it would go for the Skeeters. Gary Gaetti, who managed the team through the first six seasons, was gone and Incaviglia was something of an unknown commodity to Sugar Land fans. The team had just a small handful of players back from the previous season and many of the big-name, marquee players the organization touted in the pre-season were cut before the first game.
When Incaviglia was announced as the new manager, he promised the fans would see good old-fashioned, hardnosed baseball, and on that note, he delivered. Incaviglia, with his hot temper and colorful language, routinely made short order of umpires and had surprisingly very few ejections. In the seven years I’ve been watching the Skeeters I’ve never seen a skipper spend more time in an umpire’s face than Incaviglia. It all goes to demonstrate how hard he plays and fights for his players.
Although the Skeeters dominated the regular season, the playoffs were a whole different matter. In the Freedom Division Championship Series, the Skeeters never lead until the walk-off grand slam by Tony Thomas in Game 5. The Skeeters had to keep catching up to the Lancaster Barnstormers to force Game 5.
In the Atlantic League Championship Series, it looked like the Skeeters would sweep the Ducks again after taking the first two games at home. The Ducks, however, won the next two in Long Island to bring about the winner-take-all fifth game. The Skeeters hosted watch parties Saturday and Sunday night at Constellation Field, but a prior commitment kept me from attending. It did not, however, prevent me from nearly draining the battery on my cell phone Sunday night as I listened to the radio broadcast by Ira Liebman.
This is the second championship for the Skeeters and the second time they’ve won it on the road in New York. The next time they win the ALCS, I want to see them dance at home for a change. We fans would love to celebrate with them.
In the meantime, celebrations are under way in Sugar Land. This is the home of champions. The Atlantic League trophy is back in Texas, where we plan to keep it for a while. If the rest of the league would like to have it, they can just come and take it!